Friday, March 27, 2015

President Barack Lubitz at the controls

Israeli official brands emerging Iran deal as ‘incomprehensibly’ bad, reads one report.  Israeli TV: Iran deal, leaving 6,100 centrifuges spinning, to be signed by Tuesday, says another

Obama is acting like the Germanwings co-pilot. By appeasing Iran Obama is driving the world into a fatal descent towards nuclear war. Congress is knocking on the cockpit door, but to no avail. Congress should break down the cockpit door while there is still time.

Germanwings will change the cockpit rules i.e. they will include a requirement that, when one of the pilots exits the cockpit for any reason, another qualified crew member must lock the door and remain on the flight deck until the pilot returns to his or her station.

But the American political system of checks and balances is already in place, and yet
this is still happening. How come?

Mathew Kroenig,in his book At Time to Attack,writes:  

                         "As Iran's nuclear capabilities grow over time, it is even possible that nuclear war with Iran could threaten the very existence of the United States. While the risk of nuclear war on every given day is low, it is not zero. And that risk needs to be aggregated day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade as the countries go through various political conflicts of interest, crises and possibly even wars. Given enough time, there is a real risk that something could go terribly wrong.".    

How is it that so many people, not only Americans, but the other 5 negotiators are complacent, unaware of the danger unfolding before our eyes? After all, as Kroenig writes, a nuclear Iran would be an existential threat for the US as well as for Europe.

The answer, I think, is just ignorance. Profound ignorance of how Muslims think and what they believe in. Although I have read extensively on Islam, Chapter 4 of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book Heretic was educational –

Those who love death - Islam’s Fatal Focus on the Afterlife.

“Americans are raised to believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Muslims such as the Chicago Three, by contrast, are educated to venerate death over life – to value the promise of eternal life more highly than actual life here on earth. They see their primary purpose in this life as preparing for death: in the words of the Chicago teenager, “what we did to prepare for our death is what will matter”. Death is the goal, the event that matters because it leads to the prize of eternal life”

Many Muslims believe this with a fervor that is hard for modernized Westerners to comprehend.     

And all this without the Shi’a Twelver eschatology which adds an additional layer of ignorance to our already clueless Islam ignoramuses of the P5 + 1

             We are in serious trouble.  I am quite sure that Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Heretic  will have a profound effect on the western  public in the months  to come .  Unfortunately, it will not impact the coming few days which will live in infamy.   

Thursday, March 26, 2015

John Bolton: To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran

MARCH 26, 2015
FOR years, experts worried that the Middle East would face an uncontrollable nuclear-arms race if Iran ever acquired weapons capability. Given the region’s political, religious and ethnic conflicts, the logic is straightforward.

As in other nuclear proliferation cases like India, Pakistan and North Korea, America and the West were guilty of inattention when they should have been vigilant. But failing to act in the past is no excuse for making the same mistakes now. All presidents enter office facing the cumulative effects of their predecessors’ decisions. But each is responsible for what happens on his watch. President Obama’s approach on Iran has brought a bad situation to the brink of catastrophe.

In theory, comprehensive international sanctions, rigorously enforced and universally adhered to, might have broken the back of Iran’s nuclear program. But the sanctions imposed have not met those criteria. Naturally, Tehran wants to be free of them, but the president’s own director of National Intelligence testified in 2014 that they had not stopped Iran’s progressing its nuclear program. There is now widespread acknowledgment that the rosy 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which judged that Iran’s weapons program was halted in 2003, was an embarrassment, little more than wishful thinking.

Even absent palpable proof, like a nuclear test, Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident. Now the arms race has begun: Neighboring countries are moving forward, driven by fears that Mr. Obama’s diplomacy is fostering a nuclear Iran. Saudi Arabia, keystone of the oil-producing monarchies, has long been expected to move first. No way would the Sunni Saudis allow the Shiite Persians to outpace them in the quest for dominance within Islam and Middle Eastern geopolitical hegemony. Because of reports of early Saudi funding, analysts have long believed that Saudi Arabia has an option to obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan, allowing it to become a nuclear-weapons state overnight. Egypt and Turkey, both with imperial legacies and modern aspirations, and similarly distrustful of Tehran, would be right behind.

Ironically perhaps, Israel’s nuclear weapons have not triggered an arms race. Other states in the region understood — even if they couldn’t admit it publicly — that Israel’s nukes were intended as a deterrent, not as an offensive measure.

Iran is a different story. Extensive progress in uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing reveal its ambitions. Saudi, Egyptian and Turkish interests are complex and conflicting, but faced with Iran’s threat, all have concluded that nuclear weapons are essential.

 The former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, said recently, “whatever comes out of these talks, we will want the same.” He added, “if Iran has the ability to enrich uranium to whatever level, it’s not just Saudi Arabia that’s going to ask for that.” Obviously, the Saudis, Turkey and Egypt will not be issuing news releases trumpeting their intentions. But the evidence is accumulating that they have quickened their pace toward developing weapons.

Saudi Arabia has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with South Korea, China, France and Argentina, aiming to build a total of 16 reactors by 2030. The Saudis also just hosted meetings with the leaders of Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey; nuclear matters were almost certainly on the agenda. Pakistan could quickly supply nuclear weapons or technology to Egypt, Turkey and others. Or, for the right price, North Korea might sell behind the backs of its Iranian friends.

The Obama administration’s increasingly frantic efforts to reach agreement with Iran have spurred demands for ever-greater concessions from Washington. Successive administrations, Democratic and Republican, worked hard, with varying success, to forestall or terminate efforts to acquire nuclear weapons by states as diverse as South Korea, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa. Even where civilian nuclear reactors were tolerated, access to the rest of the nuclear fuel cycle was typically avoided. Everyone involved understood why.

This gold standard is now everywhere in jeopardy because the president’s policy is empowering Iran. Whether diplomacy and sanctions would ever have worked against the hard-liners running Iran is unlikely. But abandoning the red line on weapons-grade fuel drawn originally by the Europeans in 2003, and by the United Nations Security Council in several resolutions, has alarmed the Middle East and effectively handed a permit to Iran’s nuclear weapons establishment.

The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.

Rendering inoperable the Natanz and Fordow uranium-enrichment installations and the Arak heavy-water production facility and reactor would be priorities. So, too, would be the little-noticed but critical uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan. An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but by breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its program by three to five years. The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.

Mr. Obama’s fascination with an Iranian nuclear deal always had an air of unreality. But by ignoring the strategic implications of such diplomacy, these talks have triggered a potential wave of nuclear programs. The president’s biggest legacy could be a thoroughly nuclear-weaponized Middle East.

   John R. Bolton, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was the United States ambassador to the  United Nations from August 2005 to December 2006.

Can the Israeli Left Ever Win Again?

    Not unless it gets rid of some very bad ideas

In the winter of 1973, having barely survived a coordinated Arab attack, Israel set out to understand why it had it had missed the many signs pointing toward pending Egyptian aggression. The answer it came up with was long and complicated, but it can be summarized in a single word that every Israeli knows well:Ha’Konseptsya, or the Concept. Israel’s intelligence didn’t see the war coming because of the (mis)conception that Egypt would never risk war unless it had long-range missiles that could hit targets deep inside the Jewish State. The Friday before the war broke out, Israel Defense Forces intelligence officers compiled a document with 39 clauses, each pointing to a different piece of evidence for why an Egyptian invasion was only a matter of time. Their commanding officer, faithful to the Concept, added a 40th and final clause that argued that all evidence aside, the likelihood of war was minuscule. Less than 24 hours later, Egyptian and Syrian planes launched more than 750 sorties against Israeli targets in the north and in the south. Ha’Konseptsya was proven dead wrong.

What the Israeli left experienced this week in light of Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral triumph wasn’t merely a political setback. It was the shattering of another Concept, another firm worldview that ignored too many signs and relied too heavily on articles of faith. With Labor having delivered its most impressive showing in nearly two decades and yet still falling short, and with Meretz teetering on the brink of extinction, it may not be too much of a stretch to argue that this is the Israeli left’s darkest hour. If it is to survive, it needs to grapple with the Concept that led it astray.

Ironically, at the heart of the Concept are the very missteps liberal Israelis routinely accuse their opponents of committing: abandoning logic and analysis for dogma, magical thinking, and tribal hatred.

For a taste of all of the above, look no further than Ha’aretz’s post-election coverage. “The people of Israel do not want peace,” wrote Ravit Hecht, an editorial writer for the paper. “They are too incited and scared. They do not wish to live in a democratic, liberal, western nation.” Not one to be outdone, columnist Gideon Levy went a step further and argued that the people of Israel simply had to be replaced: In voting for Bibi, they’ve proven themselves unworthy of existence. From there, it wasn’t much of a stretch to declare, as the novelist Alona Kimchi did on her Facebook page, that Israeli voters were “fucking Neanderthals” who ought to “sip on cyanide” because “only death will save you from yourselves.”

These are not merely the anguished cries one would expect to hear the morning after a searing defeat at the ballot box. They reflect a profound intellectual and emotional failure, the failure to look rightward and see rational people. Tethered to its Concept, the left dismissed the trepidation most Israelis feel when contemplating questions of security, writing it off as the nervous jitters of uneducated boobs. For two decades now, the left has been telling more or less the same story: Peace, prosperity, and security can only come if kinder, gentler people take the helm, dismantle all settlements, make nice with Europe, and rekindle that loving feeling with the Palestinian Authority. All that, the left argues, is within reach, if only voters were swayed by hope rather than fear. Again and again, however, Israeli voters remain unconvinced.

They remain unconvinced because the left’s story says nothing about the mounting evidence of Palestinian belligerence, from the PLO’s embrace of Hamas to the Palestinian Authority’s repeated insistence upon shunning negotiations in favor of symbolic but futile appeals to a host of international institutions. They remain unconvinced because they’re not exactly clear on how committing not to build in Itamar or Beit El or Ariel would mollify Hamas or Hezbollah. They remain unconvinced because when they consider the left’s exhortations and look to Washington and London and Paris for inspiration they see no sensible game plan to halt Iran’s nuclear ambition, not to mention its giddy support for terrorism and violence the world over. They remain unconvinced because they see those ghoulish ISIL videos and they know that it’s only a matter of time before the turmoil spreading everywhere from Libya to Syria knocks at their door.

How, then, might the Israeli left proceed? First, it should return to Israel. The starring role played by an American run and funded anti-Bibi PAC this election season isn’t coincidental; it reflects the left’s growing financial and emotional reliance on foreign support. Rather than try to win elections and effect change by turning to the EU or the DNC, the left might try chatting with those actual Israelis who gave Netanyahu his most impressive political upset yet, and learn why so many of them opted to overcome their personal distaste for the man and give him another term.

After replacing condescension with conversation, the left could then present a plan that was actionable and concrete. Instead of trying to square the circle by promising to keep the settlements and bring peace and maintain security and foster goodwill all at the same time, it should be blunt about what it really believes. If it truly believes that the settlements ought to remain under Israeli sovereignty and Jerusalem sustained as Israel’s undivided capital—as the Zionist Camp’s platform clearly states—it should abandon its tired old trope about the settlements being the sole obstacle to world peace. And if it believes that removing the settlements is a sine qua non, it should explain to Israelis just how a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank would differ from the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.

These are not easy questions to answer, but they are not impossible. One could argue that the more things stay the same, the more likely it’ll be that Israel’s enemies grow more desperate and radical, and that it might therefore be worthwhile to consider some sort of partial disengagement from the West Bank. Then, if more Gaza-style Palestinian violence breaks out, Israel could at least defend its uncontested borders with unequivocal ferocity and conviction. It’s still an argument many Israelis might reject, but it is, at the very least, a far more substantive one than merely saying that Bibi is bad and that religion is silly and that the threat people feel is just an imaginary monster that could be banished simply by turning on the night light of positive thinking.

Sadly, no such awakening seems to be in the cards. The latest trend among those who didn’t vote for Bibi is the viral Lo Latet social media campaign; Hebrew for “do not give,” it calls on affluent leftists to brush off charities supporting those impoverished communities that voted for Netanyahu. “The conclusion is very clear,” wrote one enraged Israeli supporting the campaign on Facebook, “things are probably not bad enough for you just yet.” You hardly need to import costly American political strategists to realize that this isn’t what change you can believe in looks like.


Liel Leibovitz is a senior writer for Tablet Magazine.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Official: White House was part of bid to oust Netanyahu

Senior Jerusalem source says administration wanted ‘revenge’ over Congress speech; declares no Palestinian state ‘in our generation’

The White House was directly involved in an attempt to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in last week’s general election, during a nadir in ties between the Israeli leader and US President Barack Obama, a senior Jerusalem official said Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Times of Israel that “it’s no secret” that the Obama administration had attempted to influence the outcome of the election, having been partially motivated by a desire for revenge over Netanyahu’s polarizing speech before Congress earlier this month, which sought to undermine the president’s key foreign policy initiative – a nuclear deal with Iran.

“The White House is driven by three main motives,” the official said. “The first is revenge [over the Congress speech]. The second is frustration: It’s no secret that they were involved in an attempt to bring down the Netanyahu government – something that we have clear knowledge of – and failed. The third [motive] is the administration’s attempt to divert attention from the negotiations with Iran to the Palestinian issue.”

Netanyahu’s latest term in office has seen an unprecedented, unmasked animus seep into the relationship between the administration and his government, much of it over the emerging deal with Iran. On Monday the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel had spied on the talks, an accusation that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman attributed to efforts to undermine ties between Jerusalem and Washington.

A series of tit-for-tat exchanges between the two allies in recent months culminated with Obama sternly rebuking Netanyahu last weekend over comments he had made in the lead-up to the vote. Netanyahu was widely panned for an Election Day rallying call in which he claimed that Israeli Arab voters were being bused to polling booths “in droves” by local political groups supported and funded by a “concerted” international campaign to dislodge him.

One of those groups was allegedly V15, whose sources of funding are unclear and whose reputed improprieties are the focus of a Republican-initiated US Senate probe.
Obama slammed Netanyahu’s comments as evidence of the “erosion” of Israeli democracy and vowed to “reevaluate” bilateral ties between the two countries in the wake of the election, a move that former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren called “damaging” to bilateral ties and to Israel’s image.

The White House will attempt to “punish” Israel at the UN or the Security Council, the Israeli official said Tuesday, alluding to intimations by US officials to the effect that Washington could change its policy of vetoing anti-Israel measures and even pursue a unilateral Palestinian statehood initiative.

“Congress is currently our only means of preventing a series of harmful initiatives, on both the Iranian and the Palestinian front,” the official said. “If the US government will permit the recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN, then Congress will brandish its knives and defund the UN.” On Sunday, Republic Senator John McCain threatened to do just that.

Criticism of Netanyahu in Washington also focused on his apparent repudiation of support for a two-state solution with the Palestinians ahead of the election. In an evident effort to appeal to hard-line voters, the prime minister had said that there would be no Palestinian state during his next term in office after the election, he attempted to walk back the comments). On Monday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough toldlobbying group J Street that Israel’s “50-year occupation must end,” doubling down on the Obama administration’s criticism of the prime minister.

The Jerusalem official took Netanyahu’s disavowal of Palestinian statehood further, claiming that a two state-solution would be out of reach “in our generation,” due to Palestinian rejections of Israeli proposals and US-led agreements.

“[Obama] continuously warns of a deteriorating state of chaos in the [Palestinian] territories, when he knows that the only place that truly manages to maintain stability in the Middle East right now is [Israel],” the official said. “Netanyahu said there will no agreement [with the Palestinians] during his term in office.”

A Palestinian state “won’t even happen in our generation,” the official added.” Everyone knows it.”

“They come and accuse us of torpedoing negotiations even though they know that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas himself said no [to a deal], twice — once to then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2011, and once to Secretary of State John Kerry last year.”

The official went on to refer to two “framework documents, designed to jump-start the process” that were accepted by Israel and rejected by the Palestinians, and accused the administration of devoting too much energy to the Palestinian issue, to the detriment of other, more pertinent regional challenges.

“Look at what we did about settlement construction. We took upon ourselves all the restrictions laid forth during the Sharon-Bush era, which allowed for building to accommodate natural population growth, but not for building new settlements,” the official continued, referring to an arrangement in the last decade between then-prime minister Ariel Sharon and president George Bush. “But the [current] administration does not recognize the Sharon-Bush understandings. They’re working according to a ‘no-brick’ policy and it doesn’t make any sense.”

Avi Lewis contributed to this report.

Barack Obama and Israel

The Huffington Post received a lot of coverage for its interview with President Barack Obama. It covered a good deal of territory, but what's in its headline are the President's judgments about Benyamin Netanyahu and Israel.

Insofar as this is the President who preached democracy and equality in Cairo, and came after a President who went to war in Iraq at least partly for the sake of bringing democracy to that country, we of the Middle East are entitled to ask if the White House--and maybe all of the United States--exists on the same planet with us.

Prominent in the interview are Obama's comments about Bibi's campaign, and its threat to Israeli morality and democracy.

What is described as the President's "deepest discomfort" concerns Netanyahu's Election Day comments about Arabs going to the polls "in droves."

" . . . that kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel's traditions. That although Israel was founded based on the historic Jewish homeland and the need to have a Jewish homeland, Israeli democracy has been premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly . . . And I think that that is what's best about Israeli democracy. If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don't believe in a Jewish state, but it also I think starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country."

I wouldn't have translated Bibi's text messages to include the notion of Arabs going to the polls in "droves." That suggests something akin to being driven, like slaves, and coming in great masses in a way to threaten Israelis who are not Arabs. What Netanyahu or his aides did send as text messages in Hebrew to the cell phones of Israeli voters concerned Abu Mazan, American money, and Hamas promoting large numbers of Arabs to vote against him, and urging people to vote for his party.

One can also poke around the official statistics to measure the quality of democracy that Israel has been able to maintain in the presence of a minority that continues to question the country's legitimacy, and has active pockets of violence within it, compared to the quality of American democracy in the presence of a minority with its own troubled history.

No doubt African Americans and Israeli Arabs differ in many ways, but comparing them on important traits does not support the conclusion that Israel's democracy or society are of a lower quality than those of the US.

Starting with election results (i.e., the focus of Obama's latest complaints), we see that the Israeli Knesset has a higher percentage of Arabs (14.2) than the US Congress has Blacks (8.6). To be fair, that may be partly due to Israel having a higher percentage of Arabs in its population (20.7) than the US has Blacks (12.6). If we look at the number of minority legislators in relation to the population of minorities, we find that the ratios in the two countries are about the same, with  Israel scoring a bit better, at 68.6, than the US at 68.3.

It's on a number of social traits where any US President must admit to shame. 

On key measures of health, Israel outscores the US by far. The following table for life expectancy indicates that Israeli Arabs live longer than American Whites, and much longer than African Americans.

US White Male
US White Female
US Black Male
US Black Female
Isl Jewish Male
Isl Jewish Female
Isl Arab Male
Isl Arab Female

A similar picture appears in the statistics for infant mortality. White American babies die within a year of birth at the rate of 6.8 per thousand live births, and Black American babies at the rate of 13.2 per thousand live births. The comparable statistic for Israeli Jews is 2.8 and Israeli Arabs 3.7.

Well know differences in personal security and criminality also suggest that Barack Obama has more to do than Benyamin Netanyahu by way of improving the quality of their societies.

The incidence of murder in the US is more than three times greater than in Israel, 5.0 as opposed to 1.6 per 100,000 population.

The US comes close to leading the world in the incidence of its population that is incarcerated. There are 707 people in American prisons per 100,000 population, compared to 249 in Israel. African Americans comprise 39 percent of those incarcerated, compared to their 12.6 percentage of the population.

Comparing Israel and the US on the important traits of education and family income is complicated by differences in the available measures. 

Nonetheless, Israeli Arabs stay in school a bit longer, with 85.9 percent of age peers reaching the end of high school as opposed to 84.2 percent of African Americans. Israeli Jews do even better compared to White Americans, with 92.1 percent staying to the end of high school as opposed to 87.6 percent.

Israeli family income statistics vary not only between Jews and Arabs, but also within those clusters. The average calculated for various communities of Israeli Arabs (Druze, Christians, and Muslims) show incomes that are 61 percent of non-Haredi Jews, but 16 percent higher than Haredi Jews. In the US, Black family income is 61 percent of White family income, i.e., the same as the overall standing of Israeli Arabs compared to non-Haredi Jews.

Racism from the left appears to have had a greater effect on the Israeli election than anything coming from the right. An aging artist, Yair Garbuz, opened the pre-election rally whose theme was "anybody but Bibi." Garbuz ranted about "amulet-kissers, idol-worshippers and people who prostrate themselves at the graves of saints,”  who he saw a danger to the kind of country he could admire. His reference was to Jews, mostly of Middle Eastern origin, who cleave to a more traditional form of Judaism than is apparent in the fashionable coffee houses of Tel Aviv. Many of the "amulet-kissers" live in poor towns where their parents and grandparents were settled when they came to Israel in the 1940s and 1950s, and they comprise an important component of Likud's political base. Labor activists expressed embarrassment and sought to distance themselves from the speaker who sought to advance their chances, while Likud focused on the condescension and contempt apparent in the comments, and used them as much as any Arab threat to attract their likely voters to the polls.

If Barack Obama could profit from such details about Israeli democracy and the relative qualities of life enjoyed by the minorities in Israel and the US, he should also think a bit more about settlements, 1967 borders, and a Palestinian state. The combination of those words has become the essence of an anti-Israeli mantra. However, with some 600,000 of us living over the 1967 borders, that border (representing an armistice that ended fighting in 1948, and that lasted for less than 20 years) has passed into history. 

If the American President wishes to help the Palestinians, he and his people should pause before condemning every new construction in post-1967 neighborhoods of Jerusalem or the major settlement blocks. 

Pushing the Palestinians as well as himself to deal with realities might actually produce a Palestinian state, but there may not be many Israeli Jews willing to bet that either Barack Obama or the Palestinian leadership is up to the task.

It is also not clear if the leadership of Israeli Arabs is up to the task. One Knesset Member of the 13 on the United (mostly Arab) List was speaking just this week of Israeli occupation, rather than the prospects of cooperation for the mutual benefit of all the people.